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By Our Special Correspondent: With the T-14, the new Russian main battle tank based on Armata Universal Combat Platform, having successfully commenced testing in 2016 and production having begun subsequently, the Russian Army seems to well set to acquire 2300 T-14s by 2020. Featuring a number of innovative characteristics, the T-14 represents anew generation of Russian main battle tanks. The most significant new feature is the use of an unmanned turret with the new crew of three seated in an armored capsule in the front of the hull. Many defense analysts think that it's 20 years ahead of the West - and it WON'T blow up 'like its predecessor'. When it comes to its makers, they also claim that bristling with state of the art weaponry, armed with a remote control turret, and equipped with outer armour that explodes on impact to stop shells reaching the crew inside - this is the new Russian tank that its 20 years ahead of anything in the West. A British Army intelligence report has reportedly said, “Without hyperbole, Armata represents the most revolutionary step change in tank design in the last half century.” The T-14 does have some very impressive features. “As a complete package, Armata certainly deserves its billing as the most revolutionary tank in a generation. For the first time, a fully automated, digitised, unmanned turret has been incorporated into a main battle tank. And for the first time a tank crew is embedded within an armoured capsule in the hull front,” the report said. Actually, the Armata T-14 tank, produced as part of Russia's £250billion military update programme, even has the capability to become completely automated - making it the first fully robotic tank in the world. The war machine was among the new vehicles unveiled by Putin at Russia's Victory Day parade in Moscow last month, a muscle-flexing exercise designed to boost patriotism among Russians, and intimidate the country's opponents. Interestingly, defemse analysts pointed out that while Russia has continued to develop new tanks and armored vehicles, the United States has continued to rely on upgraded versions of the Cold War–era M1 Abrams and Bradley fighting vehicle. Russia’s Armata family of armored combat vehicles is a departure from the previous Soviet practice of developing relatively simple, inexpensive but specialized platforms. In fact, the Armata comes in many versions as was envisioned for the U.S. Army’s now-defunct Future Combat System program. There is a tank, infantry-fighting vehicle, a self-propelled artillery piece and a host of other variants. The most prominent of these is the T-14 main battle tank Armata variant. The T-14 is a complete departure from previous Soviet and Russian tanks, all of which take their design cues from the lessons the Red Army learned fighting the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. Soviet tanks were relatively simple, extremely rugged and produced in mass quantities. Soviet tanks placed less emphasis on matching Western tanks one for one and more on overwhelming the adversary using sheer numbers—crew survivability was a secondary concern. Every Russian tank, including the T-90, followed this basic design philosophy. The T-14, from all appearances, seems to have abandoned the traditional Russian way of designing armored vehicles. Instead of a relatively simple design, the T-14 is fitted with a number of very advanced features that have never been implemented in an operational tank anywhere else in the world. Moreover, for the first time, the Russian military seems to have placed a premium on crew survivability. That could be a result of Russia’s push to professionalize its military and possibly due to the country’s declining demographics. What immediately sets the Armata apart from any other operational tank is that it has an unmanned turret. The advantage is that the crew compartment is physically separated from the ammunition. Further, the tank is equipped with passive laminated armor combined with reactive armor and an active protection system. The Afghanit active protection system allegedly includes millimeter-wave radars to detect, track and intercept incoming rounds. Taken in aggregate, the Armata offers much-better crew survivability than any previous Russian or Soviet tank—assuming all of these features work. While the unmanned turret offers much better crew survivability, it also has some drawbacks. The crew has to entirely rely on their sensors for situational awareness and targeting. That’s not a huge drawback normally, but it could be a problem if the tank is hit and its sensors or electronics are knocked out. That might mean even a glancing blow to the turret results in a mission kill where the tank is drivable, but unable to shoot back. Versus the M1A2 SEP v2 or the follow-on M1A3, it’s an open question as to which is the better tank. The Abrams is a proven, reliable design that is still being upgraded. The forthcoming M1A3 will be somewhat lighter and more mobile. The U.S. Army also plans to replace the 120mm M256 smoothbore gun with a lighter version. New guided projectiles might also enable the Abrams to hit targets as far away as 12,000m. But Russian tanks are also equipped to fire anti-tank guided missiles via their main gun—it’s really a question of who sees the other first. Much of how the Armata will perform on the battlefield will depend on how much progress Russia has made in developing the tank’s sensors and data-networks. The tank that sees the enemy first almost always wins the fight. The Armata is a new design, and it will inevitably have teething problems as it matures. Further, there is the question of whether the T-14 can be produced in numbers—that’s very much a factor, given the current state of Russia’s economy. But ltimately, it could prove to be a formidable weapon.
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